Cliff Gardner

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Slow your roll

Nothing bothers me more than bike riders who roll around Portland with a huge sense of entitlement. We’ve gone out of our way to make PDX as bike-friendly as possible—there are huge bike lanes, places to hang bikes on public transportation and lots of well-established bike paths, and I’m not against any of these efforts. It’s a good thing to encourage people to bike places for a myriad of reasons, and I understand that, and for the most part, bicyclists are awesome. However, far too often, bikers ride through traffic, cut through intersections and turn lanes with no regard for anyone else, and act as though they deserve to do whatever they want on our roads--this attitude has got to change. Bicyclists need to understand that they are part of a larger community of commuters just trying to get places and they are not entitled to treat other people with such disrespect. Riding a bike does not make you better or more deserving of human decency than anyone else, and it's time that more Portland bikers got that through their heads.


  • I'm pretty sure the same argument can be made for many drivers.

    By Blogger KBT, at 11:28 AM  

  • Of course it could, and asshole drivers need to stop being such jerks. However, the point I was trying to make here was that bikers are often the problem and someone (I guess me) should call them on it.

    By Blogger T-Mac, at 5:42 PM  

  • Dearest Thomas,

    I know that you enjoy intelligent spirited discourse, and i have thought about my response for several days. I would like to start some. I am that bike rider that blows through stop signs and cuts across lanes. I know that there are some of my compatriots that blow through stop singes and then give pedestrians the finger, but i am going to try to speak for the rest of cyclists.

    We are in the middle of a lot of vehicles that weigh ten times as much as we do. Not only that, but the people that tend to get clipped are the ones that follow the rules. bike lanes that continue through stoplights are death traps. Most motorists never check there blind spot on a protected right turn, and many cyclists have died because of it. That means being aggressive with traffic.

    Any time i can be an active participant with traffic i try to be. That means, at times (most times), kind of being a dick. Most drivers don't have cyclists best wishes at heart, and if it is the difference of being a smear on the pavement or making a pedestrian say "hey watch it asshole" i'll take the pedestrian rage every time.

    Every time a blow through a stop light right on the edge it means that i have a whole block to plan my next move with out worrying about being flattened by 2,000lbs of steel. I'll take that every time i can.

    As soon as bicycling is as ubiquitous as driving a car, i will stop aggressively protecting my well being. But i have seen to many cars take fast right turns where if i had been where i was supposed to be, doing the speed i have been asked to, i would be a smear on the concrete.

    sorry my friend, not interested.

    By Blogger Moses, at 1:50 AM  

  • I guess I don't understand how riding your bike recklessly makes you more safe. Of course I don't want you (or any) bike rider to get hurt, that would (and does, when it often happens) suck. However, I would think that if so many drivers don't have your best interests at heart (and at best it's absent-minded-ness, not malice on the part of motorists) then that would be even more reason to be super careful and NOT go through those lanes/lights/stop signs.

    If you're right, and biking that way truly does make you safer (although I don't think you've proven that yet), go ahead. However, there's a flip side to your argument that's chilling-- some times, bikers are the ones that cause accidents by riding around all crazy. Moreover, if they're not following the rules of the road, do they have a right to expect anything else?

    You and I both want the same thing, Mo--for everyone to get where they're going in one piece. My argument is that the best way for that to happen is for everyone respect other drivers/riders, traffic laws/signs/signals and to be, in general, respectful. Your argument seems to be that the opposite of all that increases safety. Please explain! Hope all is well. Ride safe.

    By Blogger T-Mac, at 9:48 AM  

  • Hey again Moses. I meant to add some stuff earlier but I didn't get a chance. I realized that you actually did explain why it's important/ a good idea for bikers to ignore rules a little bit. You argued that most drivers don't check their blind spots on protected turns, but I would think that would be just one more reason to be super careful and wait your turn/a little longer...if it means you get where you're going a little later, so be it. Moreover, don't bike horns and lights help a little? Your argument seems to be that since some drivers are reckless, then bikers being just as reckless if not more so will increase safety and that just doesn't make sense.

    There are four scenerios here--one where bikers AND drivers are safe, aware and respectful, which I think we can both agree isn't the current reality but is ideal since no one will get hurt.

    Scenerio 2 is where drivers are stupid/dangerous but bikers are respectful and super careful/cautious (honking a lot, making sure cars see them as much as possible, etc). This scenerio, I would argue, is the 2nd best one since Bikers have the best ability to protect themselves, for a few reasons. It's just easier for a biker to see a car than the other way around, for starters, and just being slower through intersections can really help. Again, I wish I could put a safe driver in every car but that's just not going to happen. A reponsible bike rider can save his/her own life.

    Scenerio three is when drivers are awesomely nice/aware but bikers are jerks and don't look around while flying through intersections. This is, I argue, more likely to cause the death of a biker because there's so little room for error on a bike. If a biker fucks up and gets hit, which can happen with even the best driver since bikes are so small and fast, then the bikers can die. Not good.

    The 4th scenerio is where everyone in a car or on a bike does whatever they want all the time, and this seems to be your advocacy. If drivers aren't safe (which I think we both agree is happening now) then won't bikers being unsafe just add to the problem?

    In short, while drivers should always strive to be as conscious and aware of their surroundings as possible, the same attitude should be embraced by bikers as well. Ride safe, people.

    By Blogger T-Mac, at 4:21 PM  

  • Party I, shit got to long

    Hey feller, so I'll try to answer all your points and bring up a few more. I believe that your main contention has to do with intersections, but also you seem to bring up that bikers are just generally reckless.

    I would contend that what an experienced urbane cyclists does to the uninitiated looks reckless, but is actually more often a deliberate choice that brings on either more safety, or speed, often both.

    Take for example from your third post,

    You argued that most drivers don't check their blind spots on protected turns, but I would think that would be just one more reason to be super careful and wait your turn/a little longer...if it means you get where you're going a little later, so be it.going slower or "obeying the rules" isn't going to make a difference if a driver crosses my bike lane at an intersection. A girl died in Portland just last year because of this exact problem. She is the reason we have the green boxes now. She was wearing helmet, obeying any and all traffic laws. Didn't matter. the mere fact she was where she was supposed to be killed her. Her going faster or slower isn't really going to make much difference. And for the record the green boxes actually don't solve what nailed her in the first place.

    Because of this, if i'm moving faster than traffic you couldn't pay me enough money to be in my bike lane moving through an intersection. Because of this, i tend to stick to my lane in the middle of blocks and then cross the car turn lane and move through the intersection on the right hand side of the car through lane, then move back to where i am supposed to be. To a driver that doesn't know that i am doing this very purposefully i look like a jack ass that is just weaving through traffic for shits and giggles. let me assure you that it is no mistake and i am not being reckless. Just assuring my own safety in a system that requires me by law to be in the wost possible place in an intersection.

    This is of course all highly dependent on me moving faster than traffic, which is actually at most times downtown. Rest assured that if traffic is moving faster than me than i am hugging the curb like a life preserver after the titanic went down.

    I don't think i even need to get into being doored, because i think the point previous is a better one anyway. if splitting lanes is something you think is reckless i would refer you to the state of California where you are allowed to do it with a motorcycles. And everyone seems to be getting along just fine.

    Most of the time i have seen the reckless cyclist argument come up it is from drivers that are uncomfortable sharing the space. It takes a lot more work to be paying attention all the time, and a lot of times cyclists come very close to vehicles, which can be scary. But generally (at least when i do it) that is a very specific choice, and the car would have to accelerate pretty quickly to hit me, usually in addition they would need to be actively going after me.

    By Blogger Moses, at 9:56 PM  

  • Part II

    On to the intersection problems. Obviously i am not going to try to defend people flying through intersections after traffic has started, but i will say that if i am riding fast, and pacing a car and the light turns yellow, and that car would be the first car at the stop light, i will often just take the intersection. at that point no on is moving, and normally all you are really doing is running a yellow, which if you get your vehicle halfway through the intersection before it turns and don't increase your speed is legal anyway.

    Bikes are amazing machines because they are really good at conserving momentum, there is a fantastic video on something called the idaho stop here. If i can conserve my momentum and not put myself or anyone else in danger i usually take it. Most cyclists think of it more as high speed jaywalking anyway.

    The last one is more of a bike thing than saftey itself, but i think it might make the whole interseciton thing make more sense, and like i said, not going to defend cyclists blowing through intersections through traffic.

    Basically what i am saying is that most drivers just need a paradigm shift. A lot of the deaths i have read about happened while the cyclists was doing everything they were supposed to be doing, in a bike lane, wearing a helmet. I'm sorry, i'm not going to be one of those people. I'm not going to wait for some jack ass to make some weird move and leave me a smear on the pavement.

    If that makes a couple of cars honk and yell so be it. But i think you should reconsider using the word reckless. that would some how imply that what we do is taking on more risk thoughtlessly. Yes operating a vehicle that ways 20lbs in the midst of a bunch of vehicles that weigh 4,000lbs is dangerous. But until they build me a serparate road system that doesn't put me on the wrong end of a Ford when i am following all the rules (like the current system does) i'm going to be bobbing and waving through traffic.

    By Blogger Moses, at 9:57 PM  

  • I think you obviously have a lot more experience doing this than I do and I really appreciate your perspective. I actually learned a lot about this/you/us and commuters in general from your last two posts, and that was awesome. I don't think you're trying to defend bikers who ride right in the middle of lanes for extended periods of time and annoy everyone in the world, and I don't think your argument is that bikers are universally better and more responsible than motorists (i.e. I get the sense that you know bikers are the cause of at least SOME accidents). You just want what I want (safety) and you seem to have a good sense of what the best way(s) to get there are. So, yeah. Thanks for teaching me some stuff, Mo. Hope all is well, stay safe!

    By Blogger T-Mac, at 10:12 PM  

  • Hey that's what it is all about right:)

    By Blogger Moses, at 10:14 PM  

  • All I have to say is WOW, and I cant believe I just read all of this.

    By Anonymous KATIE~, at 3:52 PM  

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